I love my slow cooker, it barely uses any energy and can safely be left on all day, gently cooking away. As well as meaty casseroles I also cook beans and pulses in it. My slow cooker was one of the cheapest from Argos, bought about 10 years ago. Do check the wattage on the cheaper models – mine is 160 – 190W – and works well. Less powerful models can take forever to bring the contents to a simmer, and will not give as satisfactory results.
A successful slow cooked meal is all in the preparation, most of the time you do need to prepare the ingredients, and usually give ox cheeks and vegetables a quick fry before transferring to the slow cooker. About an hour before you want to eat check the meal – if needed you can thicken the sauce in two ways – either place a heaped teaspoon of corn flour into a small bowl, add a tablespoon of liquid from the slow cooker, mix well and return. Or, prop the lid open a crack, which will allow for some reduction. by evaporation.
One trick I have recently learnt is to wrap your vegetables into a grease proof paper parcel and pop into the slow cooker with the casserole for the last hour or so of cooking.
Ox cheeks are hard working muscles – all that grazing and chewing of the cud results in a dense, coarse meat. It’s a cut, therefore, that needs slow cooking, but with some time can deliver a meltingly soft and tasty result. You will achieve equal success with stewing steak or shin of beef. We used a slow cooker, but a casserole in a very low oven would do as well.
The addition of the pickled walnuts adds another layer of flavour, some sharpness and texture. It is well worth investing in a jar.
Recipe: Slow Cooked Ox Cheeks with Red Wine & Pickled Walnuts
- Beef dripping or goose fat
- 2 medium onions – roughly diced
- 1 clove garlic
- 800 g Ox cheeks – cut into 3 – 4 cm chunks (or stewing steak)
- 1 glass red wine
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 mug beef stock
- 8 pickled walnuts
- Salt & pepper
- Slowly fry the onion and garlic in the dripping or goose fat ; when soft transfer to the slow cooker or crock pot.
- Cube the ox cheeks into bite-sized pieces and sear a few at a time, transferring to the slow cooker when browned.
- Whilst the last batch of beef is frying add a little extra fat to the frying pan – we used goose fat – and add a tablespoon of plain flour and cook for a few minutes before transferring to the slow cooker.
- Add the wine, top up with water until the top of the meat is just covered and a beef stock cube.
- Season with salt and pepper, and let the cooker come up to temperature. Once simmering, turn down to the low setting and leave to cook.
- About half an hour or so before serving, cut the pickled walnuts into eight pieces each, and add to the stew, together with a dash of the pickling vinegar.
- Finally, just before serving, check and adjust seasoning.
- We gave it 8 hours, which resulted in an unctuous and rich stew that was just right for a winter weekend supper, served with a buttery mash and some quickly wilted kale.
Many thanks to Donald Russell for meat used and to Opies for the pickled walnuts.